Alibi Bye is the second album from Siobhan O’Malley (my beautiful younger sister). Permanent Markers was her first (self-produced) album – and a marvel it was, honest, emotional, and this new one, a couple years in the making, has a bigger sound – with intricate orchestration, and high production values – involving studio musicians, multiple tracks, banjos, accordions, and I am not even sure what else..
One of the things I love about the sound of this album in particular is how diverse it is. Each song is its own complete world, you don’t feel a sense of same-ness, like you’re just hearing the same song tricked up over and over again. And it all feels completely right, when heard together. It works as a whole.
Here are some of my thoughts on the songs on this album:
“Give me the Creeps” is so infectious that I dare you to listen to it only once. There is such a happiness to the music itself, but the lyrics belie the joy. This is one of Siobhan’s gifts. She doesn’t make the mistake that so many artists do – what I call “blue on blue”. Meaning: on the nose. Like a film where there’s a shot of rain falling on a window and the song playing at that moment is about rain falling on a window. So that’s why I listen to a song like “Give Me the Creeps”, and find my foot tapping – and yet my heart is aching. That’s a good songwriter.
Video below the jump. I can’t even describe how much I love it. An increasingly insane and neurotic Siobhan, an abashed and bumbling Nate, hovering creepy waitresses, and a zombie dance in Riverside Park.
“Science Can’t Be Coy“. Ouch. Again, one of Siobhan’s real strengths is in her lyrics, which are biting, intelligent, and heartfelt. I mean, the song starts with this line: ” ‘She’s like the Doppler effect,’ he said”, mkay? And in Siobhan’s lyric-universe, this is not a random “quirky” detail. This is a thematic element, this is how she will structure her song. Characters emerge through the course of the song, funny details, glimpses … but again and again, that first line keeps resonating, reappearing, on different frequencies maybe … but that’s the context of the whole song.
“I Might Deal Drugs In Order to Afford to Live in This City“. Here she goes all funky, and urban – a funny (and yet sincere) song about the ridiculous amount of money it costs to just live in New York City, and how insane it can make, well, everyone.
“Heartland, Heartburn“. This song seems to be for anyone who has ever yearned to “get away”, move on, get a change of scenery. Not just because you want to switch it up, but because you start to wonder: what else is out there for me? Is this all there is? This is a very common thing with New Yorkers, obviously, bound as we are by pavement, etc. But one of the things I love about this song from Siobhan is that she does not lose herself in romantic notions about what it would be like to live “out there”. Or maybe she does, but then she has to make fun of herself in the next moment and dream of a place “where she can shuck fuckin’ corn for nourishment”. That line always makes me laugh out loud. Yes, she wants to escape. But she also makes fun of herself in the middle of it. (Side note: she uses the word “dyspeptic” in the song. I find this thrilling.)
“It’s Not Yesterday“. I cannot write anything rational about this song. I have tears in my eyes as I type this out.
“Brilliant Petty Crime“. Siobhan’s voice on this melancholy song is hauntingly beautiful. There’s almost a whisper at the back of it. It’s soulful. But then I love how the bridge of “Brilliant Petty Crime” goes to a completely different place, where she sings over and over again, “I ain’t gonna lie – I’m more than willing to lie lie lie lie lie.” Great line, man. I ain’t gonna lie, I’m more than willing to lie.
“A Future Me“. Siobhan sings here of her childhood love for Jean, her older sister, her partner in crime as a youngster. It’s really a love song. “And I got me an angel / She’s me from an angle.” Killer. This song is killer. (Great vocals here, too. Really rich and happy and sweet.)
“The Reminder“. This is one of my favorites on the album (and I love it when she plays it live too.) Something about the “reminder” aspect of the song cuts deep to my core – and how I try to live my life. How I feel the need to hang onto things, save them up for a cold tomorrow, because everything is ephemeral and nothing lasts.
A rubber band’s a reminder wrapped around my wrist
Keep on snapping it to make sure I don’t miss
The things I know I’ll cherish at a later date
“Squinting Optometrist“. To quote my brother in his review: “I mean, just look at the title. Do I even need to say anything else?” What’s so wonderful about Siobhan’s images (like a squinting optometrist, and an eye-chart) is that she digs deep into what those images could actually mean, or say – what message we can impart from them. So here we are with a “squinting optometrist” in our head, and we can’t help but follow that path, with Siobhan leading the way: What does it mean to see? What does it mean to have things “in the way”? Can we ever really see each other? And she manages to do all of this without being top-heavy or self-conscious. What happens is: her intelligence and intellect lead her time and again to a deeply emotional place. So satisfying as a listener.
“Fundy Bay Forecast“. One of her best songs, I think. It’s heart-crushing.
“In With the Old“. ROCKIN’!!!! Pissed off, but funny, too – with its Dr. Seuss theme of that damn cat coming back and back. Rockin’ song. Seriously. It’s been one of her songs I’ve had on eternal repeat.
“There, There“. This is one of Siobhan’s best tunes in terms of the melody, the arrangement, the chord progression … It’s perfect. It’s one of those songs that gets under your skin, just by what it sounds like. I am not sure if I can express this well. The lyrics add to the journey, of course, the lyrics tell the tale. But the music already catapults you, immediately, into an emotional place. This is the best example of hers that I can think of. From the opening chords, I’m THERE. Before I’ve even heard one word. Love this song.
“Avenue C’d“. Siobhan’s voice is gentle and sweet here, and giving. It’s a song about one of those relationships where you pour your heart out for someone who is too lost, too far gone, to really accept your gifts, to really understand how blessed he really is. But you can’t help but keep giving, because you love him. Sometimes that happens. The fact that this song takes place in a certain block of Manhattan (on Avenue C, trying to get to Avenue B, wishing to God you were 4th Avenue) just anchors it in such a gritty reality that runs counter to Siobhan’s sweet wistful voice. I live here. I know the neighborhood she’s describing. I know what it’s like there at 3 a.m. There is no way to escape it, if you are in a certain mindset, or life stage … and Siobhan sings about that with love, forgiveness, and deep sadness. The ultimate gift we can give to someone else. It’s a kickass song. Heartbreaking.
Alibi Bye is available for purchase on iTunes.
You can also buy it here.
My brother’s beautiful review (that made me cry) can be found here.